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Container inspections should remain

Container inspections should remain core MAF business.

Forest and Bird says conflict of interest problems could undermine the effectiveness of proposed shipping container inspections. Forest and Bird called on the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) to retain container inspections as a core MAF function.

MAF yesterday announced a proposal that would enable accredited non-MAF people to carry out inspections of shipping containers. This proposal is part of recommendations to reduce the number of pests arriving in New Zealand on shipping containers. However, the MAF report warned of conflict of interest problems with this proposal.

"There may be strong pressure from some importers and registered unpacking sites to under-report new pests so that they don't lose their registration or face significantly increased inspection costs. It's vital that people doing the inspection are government employees so they can't be put under pressure," Forest and Bird Biosecurity Awareness Officer Geoff Keey said.

"Under-reporting of new pests could cause a fiscal and environmental disaster for New Zealand. There's no way that inspectors should be put into a position where they might feel under pressure to short change New Zealand's future for the sake of their employer", he said.

"The government is looking at using financial penalties and incentives to encourage compliance by the private sector. It's vital that those policing the system are immune to the incentive this could create for misreporting," he said.

"The government should levy importers for the cost of ensuring their goods are pest free, but the inspectors should remain clearly answerable to the public through the government. New Zealand's natural heritage is already too vulnerable to face unnecessary risks," he said.

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